Construction Journal Entry Week of 2/1/15

2/4-6/15 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Wednesday through Friday.

On the way I stopped to visit with Uncle Charles. The residents were playing a game of kick-ball, so I joined in on that instead of playing checkers. There was some new snow and slush on the road going over the pass but there seemed to be more snow on the east side of the pass than at the pass itself. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got to Camp Serendipity.

I arrived at 1:45 and drove through about 6 inches of new wet snow in order to park. After turning the water on, restacking all the boards the scouts had moved, and unloading more yard waste onto the compost pile, I turned the truck around and parked at the foot of the concrete staircase. I figured it would be easier to carry my gear up the steps than slog through that new snow up the upper roadway.

I first shoveled the steps off so that I didn't pack the snow down into dense slush on the steps. That made it easy. When I reached the top, I unlocked the cabin and raised the flag. Then I went back down for my gear.

Next I had a late lunch and then I started a fire in the wood stove. Then I split a couple of big firewood rounds so that I would have enough wood for the week. The temperature stayed at about 28 all day and it snowed intermittently all day. For a while I thought there would be a significant accumulation, but none of the snow flurries lasted all that long

On Thursday it snowed pretty heavily and added 5 or 6 inches of new snow on the ground. But later in the day it turned to rain and soaked it all down. I spent the day working on the ceiling boards at the Grid 3 end of the bay.

I measured the remaining gap all the way across the building and discovered that I needed two more complete courses plus a skinny filler of about 2 or 3 inches to fill the last gap. I found that the gap was widest near the center of the building and that it narrowed toward both gables. That meant that I needed to start from each gable end so that I could shove the tapered filler boards from the wide end toward the gable wall.

Since the gap will have tongues sticking out on both sides, I decided to rip the first strip from the groove side of a new board, chamfer the cut edge, rip the tongue off the lower full course so that it could mate with the ripped edge of the strip. I would then seal that gap with clear silicone sealant to make up for the loss of a tongue and groove joint.

After ripping one strip from the groove side of a board, there would be enough flat material on the board to make two more strips with neither a tongue nor a groove. These would be chamfered on both edges and the mating full boards would both have to have their tongues ripped off. As I am wont to do, I will try to minimize the scrap by deciding how many boards to rip in this way. I started with one remnant board since I knew I would need at least that much. I'll calculate more precisely as I get more strips installed.

Things are most precarious at the Grid 3 end since the scaffold deck is lowest there and the deck is away from the gable wall by a couple feet. To reach up and work, I have to stand on a rickety step stool with my legs between the ceiling fan blades and with nothing much to hang on to. I wanted to get that part of the job done first and out of the way. So that's where I started.

I needed to nail up a full course on top with a tongue and a course with the tongue ripped off on the bottom. The bottom one was pretty easy because it was lower and I could face the work better. The top one was a different story because I had to face toward the ridgepole reaching over my head with nothing but a skinny safety rope in front of me and a 25 foot drop beyond that.

I tried installing an 8-footer in that position but I was too shaky and fatigued to get the groove to seat in the tongue above it. After it once got started, it let go again and I had to keep the board from falling. It was just too dangerous so I gave up trying.

Instead I took the 8-footer back down to the front porch and made two 4-footers out of it. Those were a lot easier to handle and to get seated so I had no problem installing them in the ceiling.

I was now ready for the first strip. I measured the gap at each rafter position for the gap that existed and ripped the strip from the groove edge of a 6-foot or so remnant that I had. I was fairly cocky about my work so at one point, where the butting ceiling boards were not exactly the same width, there was a discontinuity in the line and I duly noted that in my measurements. The plan was to cut the strip with this discontinuity in it so as to match the installed boards.

I laid out and ripped the strip, and of course, I cut the carefully measured jog on the wrong side of the strip. It needed to be on the grooved edge, not the edge I cut. I felt pretty stupid when I discovered what I had done while I was driving the strip into place. I just left it. Nobody but my readers and I will notice it up there 25 feet above the floor.

In spite of the error, I was very pleased with the result. I had not only proved the concept of my installation method, but I had gotten the most precarious part of it done. It will only get easier from here on. Before I quit for the night, I varnished the chamfer on the newly installed strip with an artist's brush. It would dry overnight and I could then seal the crack with silicone.

On Friday morning, before I did the breakfast dishes, Nancy Bartholomew stopped by and invited us to a house-warming party for their newly restored old log building. Unfortunately it was scheduled for Saturday evening and we would not be able to attend.

The temperature outside was 30 but it rained lightly all morning. The snow was all turning to slush.

I went back to work on the ceilings and followed my plan. I got the two courses of full boards and the strip between them installed for almost half of the run. I caulked the strip from the day before and varnished the new strip that I had just installed. Next week I'll do the same thing starting at the opposite gable and finish up in the middle of the building. It will be great finishing this part of the ceiling and moving on to the last bay to finish the entire job. I left for home at 1:00 feeling good about the progress.

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